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Treme: The Complete First Season(TV) (2010)
The series begins three months after Hurricane Katrina as the residents of New Orleans, including musicians, chefs, Mardi Gras Indians, and other New Orleanians try to rebuild their lives, their homes and their unique culture in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane.
For more about Treme: The Complete First Season and the Treme: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see Treme: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Clarke Peters, Khandi Alexander, Wendell Pierce (I), Kim Dickens, Melissa Leo, Steve Zahn
Director: Jim McKay
» See full cast & crew
Treme: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
Won't bow, don't know how...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 14, 2011
In 2004, Treme creator David Simon wrote about two American myths: "The first tells us that in this country, if you are smarter than the next man, if you are shrewd or frugal or visionary, if you build a better mousetrap, if you get there first with the best idea, you will succeed beyond your wildest imagination. And by virtue of basic free market processes, it is entirely fair to say that this myth, more than ever, happens to be true. Every day in America, a new millionaire is surely christened. Or two. Or ten. But a countering myth is at work, and it serves as national ballast against the raw, unencumbered capitalism that asserts for individual achievement and the amassed fortune of the wise and fortunate. In America, we like to believe if you are not smarter than the next man, if you are not clever or visionary, if you never do build a better mousetrap, then we hold a place for you nonetheless. The myth holds that if you are neither slick nor cunning, yet willing to get up every day and work your ass off and be a citizen and come home and be committed to your family and every other institution you are asked to serve, then there is a portion for you as well. You might not drive a Lexus; you might not eat out every Friday night; your children might not be candidates for early admission at Brown or Harvard; come Sunday, you might not see the game on a wide-screen. But you have a place. And you will not be betrayed."
He went on to write, "it is no longer possible to describe this as myth. It is no longer possible even to remain polite on the subject. It is, in a word, a lie." Of course, Simon was writing about Baltimore, as well as outlining one of the driving philosophies of his critically acclaimed, pull-no-punches inner city saga, The Wire. (One of the finest shows to ever grace television.) He could easily make the same argument, word for unflinching word, in 2011, substituting New Orleans for Baltimore, and his latest HBO series, Treme, for The Wire. Set in 2005, just three months after Hurricane Katrina had ravaged the coast, three months after the government had utterly failed to respond to the subsequent mounting crises in any way a rational citizen could describe as "American," three months after every 24-hour news network had grown tired of covering the devastation and abandonment of a major U.S. city, Treme doesn't settle for telling a tragic tale. Instead, it weaves a story of the endurance of the human spirit, celebrates a diverse community's drive to rebound and rebuild, and hones in on a melting-pot city's determination to preserve its rich, music-steeped heritage, salvage a truly unique culture and, above all, reestablish a sense of normalcy in the wake of disaster.
To do so, Simon and co-creator Eric Overmyer focus not on a singular narrative but on the trials and tribulations of the residents of Tremé, a Mid-City subdistrict of New Orleans. We meet financially strained trombonist and divorced father of three, Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce, The Wire's Bunk Moreland); his ex-wife and small business owner LaDonna Williams (Khandi Alexander, CSI: Miami); activist, professional DJ and musician Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn, Rescue Dawn); homeless Mardis Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters, The Wire's Lester Freamon) and his son, trumpet player Delmond Lambreaux (Rob Brown, The Express); struggling restaurant owner and chef Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens, The Blind Side); embittered English professor Creighton Bernette (John Goodman, The Big Lebowski), his wife Toni (Melissa Leo, The Fighter), a civil rights attorney, and his teenage daughter, Sofia (India Ennenga, Multiple Sarcasms); street violinist Annie (Lucia Micarelli); singer and guitarist Sonny (Michiel Huisman, The Young Victoria); local legend Kermit Ruffins (played by Ruffins himself) and many, many others, all of whom are struggling to survive the socioeconomic woes and injustices of post-Katrina New Orleans. Simon and Overmyer populate their supporting cast with the real men, women and children of Tremé; musicians, performers, businessmen, blue collar workers, retirees and other colorful real-life characters that have held their community together over the last six years.
Like The Wire, Treme's plot is secondary, almost inconsequential, to the tightly knit fabric of the city set in Simon and Overmyer's sights. The Wire wasn't set in Baltimore, it breathed, screamed and bled Baltimore. It bore its scars, grieved with its victims, slung with its dealers, dug in with its police, schemed with its politicians, simmered with its public school students, balked with its teachers and administrators, and shuddered under the weight of its inner-city burdens. In the same regard, Treme isn't set in New Orleans. It cries, rejoices and exhales New Orleans, be it by way of the city's fascinating culture, its ever-evolving music, its most honored traditions, its distinct cuisine or the very tone and tenor of its still-bustling streets. It growls the painful melodies of its soulful singers, bobs and struts with its trumpet players and trombonists, weeps with its exasperated mothers and fathers, succumbs with those overwhelmed by despair, searches frantically with its separated families, delights with its joyful denizens, barks angrily at the fleeing media, pounds its chest with its outspoken activists, laughs and cheers with its jazz-club regulars, and revels in the simpler pleasures of Tremé, pleasures no storm could ever sweep away. Treme is the kind of unapologetic, genuinely affecting character-driven television series viewers are rarely treated to; a show that seems so real and cuts so deep it could only be trumped by an ongoing documentary series; a riveting experience so unshakable that it makes other shows seem positively shallow by comparison.
Simon and Overmyer strip Treme of melodrama and convention with unnerving ease, cultivating authenticity where other showrunners might indulge in grand, cinematic flourishes. Each storyline and narrative through-thread is as wildly unpredictable as the next, often because the series' writers aren't bound to the tenants of television. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they just don't. Sometimes relief comes when it's least expected, sometimes it simply doesn't. Sometimes luck favors the bold, sometimes the sheer weight of the situation comes to bear on the events that unfold. Like the best stories, Treme seems to tell itself. The writers' presence is never felt, even though the intricacies of their work is apparent. Dialogue never reeks of late-night writing room sessions, just the colloquial quirks and natural rhythms of the city and its residents. Celebration, death and heartache aren't plot points or, worse, plot twists; they're organic extensions of the lives laid before us. And it's in these hauntingly credible moments that Treme finds its voice. The story may be slow-brewed to ten-episode perfection, but every step of the journey, sudden footfall or long coming stride, is an absorbing one. The arc of the series' first season may not fully reveal itself until the credits roll on the season finale, but with it comes a palpable sense of hope and uncertainty with which the people of New Orleans have become intimately familiar.
And the music... oh, the music. Never before has a dramatic television series so skillfully infused such wonderfully varied music into its very lifeblood. New Orleans staples extend well beyond standard jazz and blues, and the countless genres and sub-genres, new and old, that saturate every tangible and intangible element of the show is showcased alongside the city herself. Like each of the actors' outstanding performances, Treme's music ceases to be a mere aspect of the series and becomes an inseparable, altogether indispensable ingredient in Simon and Overmyer's sweet and spicy Creole gumbo. Not that the series or its music will satiate everyone's individual appetites. Each episode strolls along at a leisurely pace, often dropping viewers in the middle of a crisis-stricken New Orleans with only the most necessary contextual clues. Relationships are revealed slowly but surely, conflict is unspooled much in the same way, and the rules of Simon's latest game are in a constant state of flux. Suffice it to say, if you crave some level spoon-feeding, look elsewhere. You'll find very little in Treme. Simon and Overmyer require their audience's full attention, but the results, while demanding, are far more rewarding than those offered on network television (or even HBO itself). Many of you overlooked The Wire. Don't make the same mistake with Treme.
Treme: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
HBO, still one of the most consistently impressive studios when it comes to Blu-ray releases, delivers yet another top notch high definition release. Treme boasts a striking, duly dramatic 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation that binds itself to Simon and Overmyer's every intention. Ivan Strasburg's naturalistic, no-frills photography is teeming with a realistic array of sun-bleached primaries, exceedingly lifelike skintones and solemn black levels. And yet the flash and flair of New Orleans is ever present, from the streaks of color that adorn the streets of Tremé to the dark recesses of a smoky jazz club to the gaudy splashes of Mardis Gras color that springs up around the city. Festive reds, brassy yellows and fiery oranges surge in spite of the series' sobering shadows and at-times somber disposition, and contrast rarely falters. Detail is outstanding as well. Note the tattered ruins left in Katrina's wake, the twisted shards of metal and scattered rubble that dots the destruction, the flakes of rust eating away at abandoned cars, the smudges and fingerprints on an aging trombone and the wrinkled, world-weary faces in a funeral procession. Fine textures are perfectly resolved, edges are crisp and clean, and overall clarity is excellent, particularly for a series that isn't seeking a spit-polish shine.
HBO's technical encode is just as commendable, if not more so. No need to overlook any significant artifacting, aliasing, banding, smearing, ringing or unsightly eyesores; there simply isn't any. No need to make excuses for the minor crush, intermittent noise, contrast inconsistencies or soft shots that do appear; each one traces back to Strasburg's photography and the series' source. No need to concern yourself with anything but enjoying Treme exactly as it was meant to be seen. As it stands, the Blu-ray edition of Treme not only bests its HD broadcast and standard DVD counterparts, it comes close to HBO's top tier presentations. And that's saying quite a lot.
Treme: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
And I thought the series looked good. The first thing that struck me about HBO's absolutely incredible DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track was just how busy, how viable, how positively alive Simon and Overmyer's New Orleans actually sounded. Waves of distant laughter roll down an open stretch of road, the hymns of a brass band funeral procession hang heavy in the summer heat, the excited chatter of club patrons crescendos with the music, the piercing cry of a trumpet parts a bustling crowd, the stale air of an empty restaurant sings a song all its own. Literally every sound is present, poignant and accounted for, from the subtlest waft of wind to the throatiest trombone solo Antoine has to offer. The LFE channel doesn't draw attention to itself, it simply latches onto every element that requires weight and does what it does best. The rear speakers are brimming with convincing activity; interior acoustics are varied and distinguished, ambience is exacting and effective, and directionality is flawless. (I can't begin to tell you how many times I turned my head. The illusion of space and positioning was downright eerie at times.) Dynamics? Strong yet unassuming. Fidelity? Nothing less than extraordinary. Dialogue? Clear, instinctive, intelligible and perfectly prioritized. Effects? The same, and then some. In no uncertain terms, Treme's lossless track is magnificent.
Treme: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
HBO's 4-disc Blu-ray release of Treme: The Complete First Season comes loaded with special features, among them five full-length episode commentaries, ten scene-specific music commentaries, ten in-episode fact tracks and two high definition trips behind-the-scenes.
Treme: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Don't underestimate Treme. More importantly, don't overlook Treme. Simon and Overmyer's unexpectedly inspiring, unabashedly gut-wrenching, altogether moving portrait of a Katrina-ravaged N'Orleans is a powerful drama unlike anything else currently on television. Its writing, performances and message are not to be missed. The same could be said of HBO's 4-disc Blu-ray release of the series' Complete First Season. With a near-perfect video presentation, a pitch-perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and a generous supplemental package bristling with audio commentaries, there simply isn't any reason to avoid Treme.
Treme: Other Seasons
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Treme: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• 'Treme: The Complete First Season' Blu-ray Giveaway - March 29, 2011
Blu-ray.com, in conjunction with HBO, is pleased to announce another exciting giveaway. This time, three lucky Blu-ray.com members will win a copy of the Blu-ray edition of 'Treme: The Complete First Season.'
• Treme First Season Blu-ray Announced - December 9, 2010
HBO Home Entertainment, in conjunction with Warner Home Video, has announced Treme: The Complete First Season for Blu-ray release on March 29, 2011. This series from the creators of The Wire is set in New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The first ...
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